In a typical case of the hunter becoming the hunted, the head of India’s premier investigative agency is grasping for answers about visitors to his house. Considering that Ranjit Sinha is the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, one would think access to his personal residence would be, well, limited. Instead, if spiralling news reports about his guests at 2, Janpath are to be believed, Sinha seems to have played a rather expansive host – with some visitors dropping by more than a 100 times over 15 months.
While Sinha has been defiant about meeting officials from companies named in the 2G and coal block allocation scams, the Supreme Court yesterday rejected his appeal to restrain media reports about his visitors. The reports have so far been based on a mysterious third logbook of house guests, and which is at the root of Sinha's troubles.
The CBI chief claims there are supposed to be only two diaries - one which records his movement and a second that logs the movement of his security people. A Times of India report says that the third diary, which lists the names, times of visit and even car numbers of visitors, was maintained at the behest of Sinha's wife.
The report cited sources in the CBI and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) – which provides security at the residence – as saying that 'third diary' was an unofficial log kept after an informal request of Sinha's wife.
"The request too was made because a stream of unwanted people were visiting the CBI director and his wife wanted some filtering. Jawans were asked to inform before letting anyone enter, that's all," an ITBP officer is quoted as saying. While the unofficial nature of the log can give Sinha some wiggle room to dispute the entries, more details keep emerging about the visitors.
A DNA report pointed out how Union food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who is under the CBI scanner for recruitment irregularities at the Bokaro Steel Plant, visited Sinha's residence in March. It argues that around the time of the meeting, a CBI interrogation was imminent. Paswan is yet to be questioned.
The entry in the diary, accessed by the newspaper, shows Paswan visiting Sinha with a man called Mithlesh Kumar, who according to an Indian Express report, has visited Sinha 225 times. Sinha has described Kumar as a ‘retired chief engineer and a friend', says the report.
Besides officials from Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), several other corporate representatives visited Sinha frequently. The Indian Express named some of these officials – Sunil Bajaj of Essar Group and Anil Bhalla of Abhey Oswal Group, both of whom the paper says visited Sinha on at least 40 occasions each in the 15 months between May 2013 and August 2014.
Essar is under CBI probe for its alleged role in the 2G spectrum scam. Bhalla is a close associate of company promoter Abhey Kumar Oswal, who is the father-in-law of Parliament member and JSPL chairman Naveen Jindal. Jindal is also under the CBI scanner in the Coalgate scam.
The Express report also shows that several lesser-known entities had easy access to Sinha's residence - some like Mithlesh visiting him more than 100 times a year. These people usually come with a 'plus 1', or companion.
Some experts, however, have questioned the authenticity of the logs, saying it is improbable that the CBI chief would have the time to meet anyone over 100 times, and that in a span of 15 months.
Sinha himself cast doubts on the authenticity of the logbook. "If such a visitor's register is maintained, there should be some signature on it, of Delhi police, CBI or the visitor. Is it there?" he asked.
He has also threatened he will file a perjury case against lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is representing the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which has argued for removal of Sinha from the 2G probe for allegedly trying to protect influential people. On Thursday, non-governmental organisation Common Cause sought Sinha’s recusal from the coal scam probe.
While the Supreme Court will have the next hearing on Monday, for now it seems that the caged parrot finds itself entangled in a rather tangled net.